Alphabet’s Secret Lab May Be After Transportation Tech

Is Sidewalk Labs, the secretive labs division of Alphabet, trying to shake up the public parking and transit industry?

According to documents dug up by The Guardian, the labs are looking to shake up the industry by offering cloud software to a service in Columbus, Ohio, in order to change how their bus and parking services operate. By doing this, of course, it would be ran under Google so they could have influence over the routes and traffic alerts.

This is part of Google’s new high-tech services that offer “superpowers to extend access and mobility” in order to address common problems in cities when it comes to driving and parking. So instead, Google wants to transform a new service into offering a service that merges public and private transit options that connect riders who take buses to Uber for the remainder of their rides.

According to documents gathered by The Guardian, Sidewalk Labs is currently in proposal mode and is working through various technologies, but nothing is set yet. But its overall goal is to bridge the gap between public and private services. What the documents show is that the company they are working with, Flow, used Google’s mapping data to address urban issues like parking.

“When governments and technologists collaborate, there is an enormous potential to reimagine the way we approach urban mobility,” said Anand Babu, COO of Sidewalk Labs, in a statement to The Guardian.

As for what companies could have the technology to innovate that space, The Guardian spoke with some experts on the subject,

“Only Google or Apple are in a position to track parking occupancy this way, without expensive sensors on poles or embedded in the tarmac,” says Alexei Pozdnoukhov, director of the Smart Cities Research Center at the University of California at Berkeley.

“This idea makes sense in general,” Carlo Ratti, director of the Senseable City Lab at MIT, told the publication. “It is important however, that such a platform be open to multiple players.”

While Sidewalk did not rule out other partners, its documents focused on Google apps. One said, “During the demo period, the [city’s] data platform includes… data exchange with one party – starting with Google.”